When Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in January 2007, he was immediately the best coach in the SEC. Florida fans can argue that with BCS Championships in 2006 and 2008 that Urban Meyer was the best coach in the SEC. But in 2007 and 2008, Nick Saban did more with much less, than Meyer did with much more.
In 2007, Alabama had six losses and at least four of them were against teams with clearly better rosters than the Crimson Tide. Those four losses were by a total of 22 points. A late turnover cost Alabama the game against No. 3 ranked LSU. Georgia, also with much better talent than Alabama, survived Tuscaloosa by a 26-23 score. The 2007 Tide had wins over ranked Arkansas and Tennessee teams. It was clear in 2007 that Saban was bringing Alabama Football back quickly.
It is true a No. 1 ranked Alabama lost to No. 2 ranked Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. But getting Alabama to that level so quickly, and the closely contested loss to Florida, proved Saban was at least equal to Meyer in 2008.
From 2009 on, Saban has been the man – not just in the SEC, but in all of college football.
More than a few opinions, including those of not just Georgia fans, contend that Kirby Smart is now college football’s best coach. Back-to-back National Championships are irrefutable. Giving Smart credit for recent seasons is valid but not pertinent when discussing Nick Saban’s legacy.
On Monday, ESPN and Paul Finebaum claimed the 2023 season could be a legacy tipping point for Nick Saban. No doubt a ‘what have you done lately’ mindset permeates the sports world. But Nick Saban’s legacy as a football coach is rock solid. It can grow during the late seasons of his career, but it cannot be diminished.
Going back to the Alabama Football National Championship in 1992, 33 National Champions have been awarded. In 1997 and 2003, there were Co-Champions. Only seven coaches won more than one national championship during the period. Bobby Bowden, Pete Carroll, Dabo Swinney and Kirby Smart have won two each. Urban Meyer and Tom Osborne won three each. Nick Saban has won seven of the 33 National Championships awarded.
Note: National Championship data source is the NCAA’s website.
In addition to Saban’s National Championship dominance, no coach other coach comes close to producing NFL players as has Saban.
Paul Finebaum is not quoted here and in fairness, his comments were more nuanced than follow-up coverage indicates. Others can judge for themselves from the video below. My take is questioning Nick Saban’s legacy is akin to journalistic malpractice.
The college football season cannot get here soon enough.